the poetry that matters

David Thornbrugh

David Thornbrugh currently writes from South Korea, where he teaches English in a National University. He writes to push back the darkness a little bit at a time, in the same flighty manner as lightning bugs. He has been published in numerous small press journals such as The Green Hills Liteary Lantern, Snow Monkey, Gulf Stream Magazine, and Crab Creek Review. He once wrote the questions for a geography textbook and prefers multiple choice questions to True/False.


Elvis en Deutschland


Back in Berlin, Elvis strolls Under der Linden

humming Heartbreak Hotel.

This time he’s out of uniform,

this time he doesn’t have to listen to the Colonel’s advice,

this time he can ask Priscilla to marry him

without an army of reporters between him and his heart.


But a lot has changed since his last furlough,

and the woman behind the information counter

at the Brandenburger Tor doesn’t recognize the King

or care about his needs.

“Try the SONY Building, it’s in that direction,”

she says, waving at the kilometer-long boulevard

bisecting the Tiergarten, somewhere in the direction

of the buried der Fuhrer Bunker and the Cinema Museum.


Elvis doesn’t recognize Berlin

now that it’s the capital of Germany again,

but he’s glad that Hitler is still dead,

wonders if he’ll get to meet Marlene Dietrich

when the Colonel gets him that movie deal

he’s been talking about.


Elvis doesn’t find what he’s looking for,

but he does find a toilet that’s free and unlocked,

relief better than a backstage pass for harlots

in jockey shorts under Vegas fireworks

and the sweat running down der Fuhrer’s chin

as he whips up the masses. Elvis tucks in his shirt tail

and walks off under rippling linden trees, back in Berlin,

back in the battle for hearts and minds again.





Balcony Dreams


Black wrought iron

sprouts from my forehead

out over the street.

I feel the weight of potted geraniums

heavy with rain water,

ferrous streaks my bricks black,

soft breasts warm my iron rails

young women lean against,

marching feet vibrate

brick and mortar as young men march

amid crowd roar and muffled tears,

bullets dig blunt nails into cracked plaster,

I feel the crash of ceiling beams breaking

and the shattered beds shooting coiled springs

into brick dust-clouded space,

bombs burst roof and explode,

I feel my forehead breaking loose,

the balcony of my dreams falling free,

I feel the dream flicker and fail…




From the Top of the Cathedral 


A grain of sand jumps to the top

of a cathedral

begins looking around.

You don’t need binoculars to see the horizon.

A whale swims a bathtub fretting finger bones in its fins.

A glob of mud rises and builds a bomb

with enough bang to bring everything down to its level.

People rustle on trees with green surprise.

Sunlight bites its cheeks like a defrosted coffin.

Who built these cities of paper over red coals?

Who slapped mirrors across our eyes?

Who laid roads over the grass and stifled the snake’s song?

Wind wakes up at noon and begins smoothing

pyramids and statues to nothing.

Skeletons walk red carpets like visiting VIPs.

Dust drags its gritting finger through the smile of the sky.

The king of the frogs looks in the mirror

and sees that all his warts connected make a picture:

the image of god

in a grain of sand.




Back in the Bunker 


That’s me in the bunker with Hitler,

tracking mud on the stairs screaming

about the Jews and celery,

all the bad gas of history that refuses

to stay put or wait for an introduction.

Adolf is screaming that “the evidence

must survive,” nothing to hide,

he wants the world to know he did in the Jews,

it’s his legacy, his gift to mankind,

he sees himself as Louis Pasteur kissing cows

for smallpox. “We arrive with the pitchforks,

and come down like storks

into the basement brain”

tracking mud on the stairs,

the water just lay there waiting for warships,

waiting for sharks.




Bird Flew 

Nine dead swans

no one heard sing

sound the alarm.

Whether we come to harm

or it comes to us

none can say.

Nine dead swans make a bridge

stretching across the Bosphorus.

Asia embraces Europe

on the breasts of nine

dead swans.

Pepper corns and cardamom husks

packed on the backs of camels

carried across the sandstone

spine of Tibet.

Nine dead swans rise up

as Buddhist monks

robed in flaming tiger skins.

Swans of white porcelain

packed with opium

smashed beneath horse’s hooves.

Nine dead swans dangle

from Eiffel Tower struts

meshed in fish net.

Nine dead swans

get turned back at the border

without ever spreading

their wings over the Danube

the Seine the Thames.

Nine white trumpets twisted

past the possibility of song.

Nine dead swans

wherever you look.





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